ISLAMABAD - Four people including a Chinese engineer were killed Wednesday when a wall collapsed at a construction site for 969MW Neelum-Jhelum Hydropower Project at Muzaffarabad.

According to the project administration, the workers were installing a steel reinforcement of 38 mm between the descanter and main dam when suddenly the reinforcement left its place and fell down hitting five workers.

Due to serious injuries four workers including a Chinese engineer died on the spot, however, one worker was found breathing in final evacuation who was immediately shifted to Muzaffarabad hospital for medical aid, said an official.

The accident occurred at Nauseri, the intake point of the project, around 41 Km east of Muzaffarabad.

Ministry of Water and Power has announced financial compensation for the deceased workers. Water and Power Minister Khawaja Muhammad Asif, announcing compensation for the workers of Neelum-Jhelum Power Project who lost their lives in accident, directed the project management to take necessary action in this regard, said a spokesman.

According to officials, government would pay around Rs 300,000 to the family of each deceased. “We have already paid 50,000 rupees to each family and remaining payment will be made soon,” official said.

According to initial investigations, sources said, the accident happened due to mistake of a worker who was cutting pipes. Khawaja Muhammad Asif expressed his profound grief and sorrow over the loss of precious lives of the workers due to collapse of a wall during reinforcement of steel on a 24-meter long section on Wednesday morning, officials said.

“Four workers including a Chinese engineer were killed when a wall collapsed,” Sayed Asif Gardezi, a local administration official, told AFP.  He said a Chinese engineer and two other Pakistani workers were injured but they were out of danger.

The incident was confirmed by local rescue officials.

Neelum-Jhelum Hydropower Project is one of the major on-going projects and upon completion in 2016 it would contribute around 5.15 billion units of cheap electricity to the national grid.

The Chief Executive of Neelum-Jhelum Hydropower Project company Mohammad Zubair told this scribe that it was an unfortunate accident and happened despite all precautionary measures. He said after the accident all standard operating procedures were followed and work resumed on the site. Zubair, however, expressed his concerns regarding the severe shortage of finances, which, according to him, might hinder the work on project of national importance in coming days.

According to Wapda officials, the construction contract of the project was awarded to a Chinese consortium on July 07, 2007 at a cost of Rs90.90 billion including Rs46.49 billion foreign component.

Around 68.4 per cent work has already been completed and if finances were made available, the project would start contributing around 969 MW, electricity to the much hungry national grid by the end of 2016.

China is one of Pakistan’s main allies and there are thousands of Chinese engineers and other workers in Pakistan helping on infrastructure projects including nuclear power plants, dams and roads.

Last month Beijing promised Islamabad investment worth $42 billion over the coming years, much of it focused on the energy sector where Pakistan suffers chronic and economically damaging shortages. Industrial safety standards in Pakistan are poor and fatal accidents are common.